29 November, 2017

TAKING A CHARITY CREATION TO CUSTOMER CAFÉS

“I’ve been baking since I’ve been walking,” says Beth, fresh from winning the M&S Great Bake Off. She cheerfully admits to ruining many a family diet or fitness regime with her baking at home and her love for food grew in her previous job.

“Before I joined M&S, I was sailing the high seas as a hydrographic surveyor on board a global fleet. I was often in the galley with Indonesian and Malaysian Michelin-starred chefs, loving the exotic flavours they were using. Baking also brought relief from homesickness and a good cake put a smile on my shipmates’ faces.”

Little did Beth know how that would pay off a few years down the line. All our Head Office colleagues are eligible to enter Bake Off and the creations are showcased at a Macmillan coffee morning to raise money for a wonderful charity. After a mass tasting, the star bakers go through to a final bake off judged by Directors and a Product Developer who is an experienced patisserie chef. “No pressure, then,’ Beth laughs, “but fortunately the winner is announced there and then; my nerves couldn’t take any waiting.”

So what exactly was her winning creation? “Beth’s Bramble Crumble Cake – try saying that three times quickly! It’s essentially a warm comfort food for winter evenings… in a cake. How would I describe it? Fresh, seasonal apple and blackberries bursting through a moist, spiced sponge cake, with the contrasting texture of a sweet crunchy crumble!”

The ruined diets have been forgotten by her family. According to Beth, her mum is ‘buzzing’ and her grandma has told the whole of Dorset, after trying seven versions of the cake. And they weren’t the only ones rooting for her. “The whole of the Central Forecasting Hub turned up for the finale. They brought laptops with them so they could stay for the whole afternoon. I’m quite new to Head Office and the welcome I’ve received has been something else. I suppose the support I was given was typical of them, but I was really touched – thank you, guys!”

But it doesn’t end there. Beth’s prize is to work with our Product Development team to recreate her cake as an offering in M&S Cafés. “I’ll travel to our cakes supplier and watch as my little crumble creation is transformed into a fully-fledged commercial product that will be eaten by real customers; I can’t wait to take my grandma along and share the first slice. And the cherry on top of the cake, if you’ll pardon the pun, is that a proportion of the profits from sales will go to Macmillan.”

As Beth mentioned, she’s a relative newcomer to Head Office but she had her first taste of M&S as a 16-year-old Christmas temp and became fascinated with retail. After university and her life on the ocean waves, she worked in store where she took pride in going the extra mile and making a real difference to someone’s day.

Now, as a Central Forecast & Inventory Planner for Global Meals, she’s responsible for estimating sales of our favourite food products, working with teams ranging from Supplier Relationship to Analytics. “We all know that M&S food stands out, but it can be tricky getting the balance right between product availability and waste. There are so many variables that affect customer behaviour – like the weather; as winter sets in, it’s a fine art making sure we order in enough pies for our pie- lovers!”

Beth is now a dedicated foodie. “My office is next to the tasting kitchens and the smells remind us why we’re here. I understand the research behind each bite. And I’m proud to say I work for M&S. My gym instructor saw my M&S lanyard the other day and said ‘OMG, you work for M&S, I absolutely love their food…’ I hadn’t even mentioned I work in foods!”

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